Matthew 8:10 | Marveled

I love the word “marvel” it is an interesting word. I liked reading Marvel Comics when I was young the art work and the words used to tell the story of a superhero doing “marvelous” things or having marvelous abilities. In real life we might say that athletes on the court or on the field perform marvelous feats of skills. Sometimes I marvel at things my kids say or take an interest in. To marvel at something is to be surprised and to wonder in amazement. In the gospels we find a time of marveling. Mary marvels at her son Jesus. The crowds marvel at Jesus. Roman governors marvel at Jesus. The disciples marvel at Jesus. Even the Pharisees marvel at Jesus. Can we blame them? Jesus walks on water. He controls the wind and waves. He raises the dead. How can they not marvel at this man, his authority, and his miracles? God in the flesh is something to truly marvel at.

While the Greek word for marvel or wonder (θαυμάζω – thaumazō) is used eight times in the book of Matthew it is also used freely in the other gospels of Luke, Mark, and even John. Luke the physician uses the word in his gospel even more than Matthew. The impact of Jesus on these men is profound. Yet Matthew and Luke recount a moment when a Roman Centurion (commander of 100 men) ask for Jesus to heal one of his servants.

10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. Matthew 8:10 ESV

The way this man approached Jesus. The faith of this foreigner in Jesus is amazing and both Mathew and Luke use the world “marvel” to describe the reaction from Jesus. Here is God working miracles and teaching the people how he wants them to live and he marvels at this soldier. Now God can’t learn anything new so he knows this man but the moment of wonder is still amazing to God.

What is it that this man said or did that moved Jesus to amazement? Did this solider go out and win a battle to make God marvel? Did he earn a billion dollars to elicit such marvel? What act of good deeds did this soldier undertake? What is it that makes God marvel? Jesus explains his marveling in the very same verse. Here is Luke’s version of the same.

9 When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Luke 7:9 ESV

I marvel at the fact that Jesus was impressed by the faith of this soldier. This solider came to Jesus and trusted him to take care of the problem. This solider had more faith than anyone else in all of Israel. I marvel at that. Jesus is recorded as marveling one other time in the Gospels. Any guess what he marveled at? The answer is “Faith” he marveled at the faith of an entire town but with a twist.

He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him… And [his hometown] took offense at him… 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. Mark 6:1-6 ESV

This is the only other time that Jesus marvels, not because of great faith, but because of unbelief or a lack of faith. Faith in God is clearly what moves God and makes him marvel.

6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 ESV

What moves God? A blessed life, a big home, a large family, athletic ability, smarts, money, or power? No God is not impressed by any of those things. Faith! God can be impressed with our faith in him. If you have not already done so is now the time to draw near to him in faith trusting the unseen God who is ever present? Jesus is the priest and he facilitates our connection with God. Will you submit to him and see him marvel at your faith?

22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:21-22 ESV

Acts 2:42 | Public Faith

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The prevailing ethic of the day in regards to faith goes something like this… “My faith is my own and it is something I keep private.” In the public square, at work, at home, at school, in government, and out shopping there has been a push to scrub Christianity and promote secularism. When I bring of the topic of God, Church, or spiritual things in public or with friends and family there is an awkward moment before the conversation moves forward. The question then is a private and personal faith hidden from the public square or hidden from ones own family biblical? It is right to podcast a preacher and call that church? Is that acceptable to God?

I have learned something over the last 10 years that eluded me when I was younger on this topic. God is relational and in order to be in fellowship with him in a way that is meaningful in this life one must establish like minded relationship with others in the community. Jesus demonstrated this with discipleship. The early church lived this as they started a community of Christians. If you are a Christian then you must follow in those footsteps and live out the example that was set thousands of years ago.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 ESV

While one could podcast sound Christian teaching all day long one cannot podcast “fellowship” or “breaking of bread”. One might be able to pray privately, as we all should, but without a church community one will not be able to devote themselves to “the prayers” that come with a corporate and community need. Living a life of private faith unannounced and without fellowship will be shallow and stale. God desires that we serve each other. That we disciple each other. That we are accountable to each other. That we eat in each other’s homes. That we share our lives with each other. This is what God has called us to. Do not let secularism quiet what should be a public acknowledgement of what Christ is doing in your life. If you never talk to your children about what God is doing and where he is at work what would they conclude? Is your faith real or imaginary?

13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 ESV

It is amazing to me that two people on opposite ends of the earth may instantly share a common bond through the Holy Spirit in this life. One might be free the other a slave. They might have cultures that clash as much as Jews and Greeks yet in Christ they work as one sharing the same spirit.

Do not miss the dynamics, of discipleship, fellowship, prayers, and relationship, that God desires in every Christian’s life because you might be different than the people in the church. If you are drinking from the same spirit God will bind together one body for his glory. Don’t be afraid to integrate into a church family because everyone who is saved is a child of God and therefore brother and sister before the Father.

Judges 6:36 | Fleece Moment

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Have you ever tested God and inquired of Him to determine what direction He would have you go in life? Gideon a Judge and ruler of Israel did just that to confirm that God would be with him before going into battle.

36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” Judges 6:36-37 ESV

Just as Gideon had asked in confirmation he received a result. He then also asked God for the reverse on the second night.

39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” Judges 6:39 ESV

Again God confirmed what Gideon requested. The reader might be thinking could I also be able to test God to determine an answer to this burning issue in my own personal life? Could this work for anyone?

Under the right circumstances God will reveal himself to anyone who draws near. However be warned that God is the very Creator of the universe and he is not required to answer mankind. Mankind answers to Him. In my youth I tested God in a similar way in something personal where God confirmed His will in my life. It is something I needed at that time to help me recognize His voice and what His expectations of me were to be. So I know personally first hand that God does accept these kinds of requests, but take note of how Gideon approached God in this test. Make sure that the request is worth the weight of coming before God and make sure it is in response to something God has put on your heart.

#1.) Testing God with some physical act like Gideon has done might be necessary for a young believer who is still learning to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit in their heart and mind. Gideon is called by God to be a leader and God is asking Gideon to do some things that could get him killed. It is understandable that Gideon might have second thoughts or that the voice speaking to him needed to be confirmed in some tangible way. Jesus was gracious to the father of a child who sought to have a demon cast away from his child. The father speaking to Jesus said “if you can do anything” and the incredulous reply of Jesus highlights the error of the father “if you can”!

But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:22-24 ESV

The father however recovers with wisdom that can only come from God “help my unbelief” and it is here that the father of the child has his faith worked out in real time in God’s grace and mercy. Faith is something that must be grown and worked at over time. The young Gideon about to go to battle or a new follower of Christ may be given mercy in their unbelief by God for God’s glory.

#2.) Testing God in this way might be necessary for a young believer who does not have a history of experience with God to draw on. When I was just becoming a believer in Christ I could hear him speaking to me, but He was asking for my service and a commitment of my life to Him. My relationship with Him at that time was new and shallow. Today I have years of a relationship and I know when God is speaking and if He tells me to do something worldly wisdom would say is a bad idea or might seem irresponsible I know through the faith of previous experience that God is trustworthy. Like the Psalmists I give thanks to Christ for past wonders knowing He will be faithful to the future unknown.

1 Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. 2 Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds. 3 Exult in his holy name; rejoice, you who worship the Lord. 4 Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. 5 Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given, Psalm 105:1-5 NLT

A young believer like Gideon without a lifetime of experience with God to trust on may need this kind of physical tangible proof of God’s intention and faithfulness.

#3.) Testing God is a dangerous pursuit under the wrong circumstances or the wrong motives. God had provided Gideon the tangible representation through the fleece yet Gideon wanted a second test and in this test Gideon recognizes that he might be pushing for something that is not needed. Others have found a negative reaction for challenging God and asking for a sign. John the Baptist’s father asked for confirmation when presented with a prophecy concerning his son the future herald for Christ.

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” Luke 1:18-20 ESV

Zechariah was the high priest and was not given any task other than to receive the good news from the angel. He did not believe what was before him when he rightly should have due to his history and position as priest. Gideon however acknowledges God’s power and in humility asks for the final test with the words “let not your anger burn against me”. God in His graciousness accepted Gideon’s request because God knows the heart of where the request came from.

#4.) God is not here to perform pony tricks for the amusement of people. Gideon did this over two mornings in the quiet of his relational prayers with God. This was not a spectacle from a throne of men to establish power. This request was part of something relational between God and Gideon to firm up Gideon’s faith that God would be with him and would carry him through the danger that lay ahead. God does not perform or jump to our commands. The opposite is true. If God calls then obey and jump eagerly knowing that God’s plans are always true.

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. Matthew 6:5 ESV

My own fleece moment happened between myself and God when he called me to submit to Him when I was a youth. God the Father asked me to follow His son Jesus. I objected telling God that I was much too young and that it would be better for me when I was older. God is persistent and in the quiet of my heart God spoke to me, confirmed by a “fleece moment”, establishing a relationship with me that continues today. Since the days of my youth I have not had additional need for this kind of test with God. I do not need to test God or confirm His voice in that way. I know his voice and I have a history of God being exactly who He said He is and I trust Him even when things appear crazy or the request from God seems painful to me at that moment. If you are a young believer and God is calling you in your heart to something mysterious and amazing do not be afraid to draw near and test His faithfulness.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! 9 Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Psalm 34:8-9 NLT

Genesis 5:1 | Our Family Tree

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Some people love genealogies and they will tell stories they have found about great great grand relatives that lived in a certain place or migrated from some other country. They tell stories about family that fought in wars or worked in some trade. Genesis chapter five is the patriarchal family tree from Adam, the first man, to Noah the most direct relative of everyone living today. This genealogy tells more stories than one might think at first glance and it also tells a major story that is relevant to everyone living today.

However before jumping into the big story of this genealogy we need to explore a few fun facts and details. The first thing to tackle and the thing that jumps out right away about this genealogy is the age of each person. Most of these men are stated to have lived into the 900 year range. It seems impossible that anyone could have lived that long and much effort has been spent by theologians and amateur detectives to determine what the ages really mean or what they actually were. The intent of the original author, likely Noah, of this chapter in Genesis is that these were the actual ages of these men and they should be taken as actual ages. Any attempt to adjust the ages to fit what is “normal” for people in this contemporary age will ultimately not be satisfying or accurate. I would encourage everyone to take the original author at his word that these were indeed how old they lived because the author was witness to the fact and the fact that this is what God wanted recorded.

This graphic tells some interesting stories about these pre flood patriarchs…

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These are the men and women who knew where the Garden of Eden was located (Genesis 3:24). These are men and women who could come before God and meet with Him for conversation in what might have been a uniquely direct way (Genesis 4:4 and 5:22). These are men and women who were almost perfect in every way able to live hundreds of years longer than we who continue on in this post flood fallen world. These men and women lived in a pre-flood world that looks very little like the world we see today.

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. Genesis 7:11 ESV

The Genesis history tells us that when Noah was 600 years old the catastrophic judgment of the earth by water occurred. That information combined with the genealogy in chapter five tells us that from Adam’s creation to the year of the flood was 1,656 years. In the same year, and within months, of Methuselah’s death, who died in the year 1,656, the judgment of God by water was ushered into place. Methuselah’s name depending on the root translation could mean “When He Is Dead It Shall Be Sent”. This is too much of a coincidence to not be interesting and just as interesting is the idea that his father, Enoch, a known prophet may have had a hand in giving him this unusual name almost a thousand years before the judgment of the earth by water.

While all of those are interesting stories about our history the real story is about God’s promise to return, judge, and fix what man had broken. That story is told through Enoch who never died and left a legacy that reaches out to us even thousands of years after his time on earth. Enoch was still a young man by pre flood standards when he was abducted by God and Enoch had a reputation even before this shocking intervention by God.

First Enoch was known as a faithful man who spent time with God.

Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Genesis 5:24 ESV

Second Enoch was known as a prophet speaking about repentance and judgment to those who chased after ungodly selfishness.

14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Jude 1:14 ESV

Those who lived at that time would have heard Enoch’s words from God. They would have heard from Enoch that the “Lord” of all men would be coming with thousands of holy people. They would have known that the “ungodly” way they were living was not God’s plan. While Enoch and those who heard his message would not have had the revelation of Jesus they knew the prophesy given to Eve about her offspring (Genesis 3:15). The promise of eternal life and a presence with God after death had not been articulated, but they knew people could be taken away to be with God as evidenced by Enoch’s life. They knew that God’s anointed one would be coming and he would be bringing judgment with him. Even in the very beginning in the days of Adam God’s future plan for Jesus, salvation, and his return were already being shown to mankind. This genealogy like any family tree contains stories that are relevant to life today. The question is will you be standing today in this moment of grace waiting just like the patriarchs for Jesus and his return or will you be like all those that were destroyed in Noah’s day?

12 “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. 15 Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie. Revelations 22:12-15 NLT

My Prayer for 2016

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At the beginning of the last year I was leading a group of youth at a large two day youth conference. Events like this are stressful for me because I am not a fan of crowds. (I know a youth leader that does not like crowds that is crazy) Plus I am a volunteer with a full time day job. This was the first event I had organized and I felt the weight of planning an organizing this outing. Standing emotionally drained in one of the worship sessions with Kari Jobe on stage singing I started a conversation with God about just how worn out and exhausted I was at that moment. I am grateful to have a relationship with my Creator and I love to serve him as a volunteer in ministry. I know He has drawn me to this point and I know that His work serves an eternal purpose. However I fear drawing close to Him because, well frankly, He asks the impossible and demands to be in control. At this moment standing with thousands of others singing I entered into His presence in a way that is familiar to me but not common. The Holy Spirit was near and God was speaking. As in the past He does not say much but He is always powerful and life altering in these moments before His Holy presence. When Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai and spent time with God He was altered as evidenced by the reaction from the Israelites when he returned to their company (Exodus 34:29-30). What I know from firsthand experience is that it is impossible to come before God and not be altered, moved, changed, or impacted in some unforgettable way. He is too mighty and powerful for there to be any other outcome. So it was for me that day at the conference. God told me that if I thought the previous year was busy and exhausting just wait until I saw what lay ahead for the coming year. I knew it would be true. What lay ahead was an in-law moving into my home, a promotion at work that I did not want, a construction project on the basement of my home for the in-law, a final push to wrap up a master’s degree, The pastor asking me to preach for the first time, all while continuing to be a father and husband, and manage the multiple ministries within the Church that are on my heart. There is no way one person can be outstanding at all of those things. Yet that is what the upcoming year had in store. The Holy Spirit speaking to my heart told me that in order to survive the upcoming year that I needed to step out of the comfort and illusion of control I maintain and trust God to be in control. I started thinking about Peter when he asked if he could leave the boat and walk to Jesus.

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. Matthew 14:28-29 ESV

I am amazed at Peter’s boldness and rashness of that situation. They were in the middle of the sea, it was night, and there was a raging storm. How could he just step out of the boat into that level of chaos? The boat itself was not a fun place to be at that moment but at least he knew he stood a chance as long at the boat stayed above the water. At that moment that is exactly what I felt in my heart. God drawing me out of the security of the boat. God asking me to let go of the controlling, reserved, and rational nature of who I am. I try my best to not make mistakes. I speak once I have analyzed and understand an issue. I act when I am confident of the outcome. God was drawing me into an out of control situation in the upcoming year and he wanted me to embrace it with a newfound level of faith and trust in Him. God wanted to demonstrate to me that He is in control and I do not need a backup plan. God is in control and I do not need to maintain the illusion of control in order to serve Him where He is at work. As I meditated on this invitation to me from God while standing in a crowd of thousands I started to scheme in my heart about how I could step out of the boat but maintain control. If I was Peter I would have been able to trust Jesus while stepping out onto the water but the rational and prudent thing would have been to tie off rope to the boat and myself before stepping out. Yes that would have worked. So in my head I committed to stepping out in greater faithfulness to trust God would carry me though the year, but I also promised myself in my heart that I would continue to maintain some level of control and in my own strength accomplish what He was calling me to do.

Here I am one year later at writing this letter as a way to sort out where I stand and what this New Year will hold for me. When I reflect back on the last year I know it came about exactly as God told me it would and I know that because I wanted to maintain control that it was equally disastrous to me physically and emotionally. I have always been a relatively healthy person and have lived an active lifestyle but that ended this last year where I gained weight and I stopped exercising. My cholesterol and blood pressure levels are now at unsafe ranges. By the fourth quarter of the year I was emotionally drained and had to pull back from several ministry investments that I believe the Church should be focused on just as the new church year was being launched. And something new I had never experienced before overcame me toward the end of the year. I started having what I can only describe as anxiety or panic attacks. The peak occurred over the Thanksgiving holiday. We were visiting family out of state for the holiday. The day was unseasonably warm and beautiful so we took the children fishing at a local park. The surroundings were calm and peaceful. The park was quiet and calm around this pond. The striking thing to me that day was the contrast to how gorgeous and peaceful that day was on the outside yet internally my chest was constricted and in pain. I was struggling to breathe comfortably. I took a walk on the park paths taking deep breaths trying to relax. I started to reflect on why I was such a mess. My job was out of control were that last promotion had left me consumed with an unreasonable and impossible demands. I had drawn away from spending time listening for God and His vision. I felt as if the ministry at Church was on hold because I had nothing to invest physically or emotionally at that point. This is what keeping control looks like and I was not happy with the results. I was immediately reminded of my encounter with God earlier in the year. I knew this was all on me and that I needed to surrender.

So here I am contemplating the upcoming year. I have been slowly spending time drawing close to God and He in is mercy and grace has restored me in several ways. I am once again emotionally restored with a desire to write and teach. The anxiety attacks are gone. I have lost several pounds and am feeling physically better. However there remains one major task before me. The same request that I cheated one year before. Will I step out of the boat? Will I rest in His control? Will I be irrational and do what the world would say is crazy? I want to. Lord and Father know that I want to. I can’t do any of this that you have called me to on my own. Without you it is not even worth doing. Lord give me the desire and strength to wildly abandon the reasonable safety of the boat. Help me to untie the safety ropes. Father I am yours and I want to move forward in this relationship counting everything else as lost. I struggle to say this but I desire it… Father have your way with me.

 

Jesus is Shockingly Confrontational

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My favorite Biblical view of Jesus is as the Good Shepherd. I think this view of Jesus is less popular and less understood in current western culture due to the fact that more people live in cities and have never had to care for livestock. Shepherds are by nature confrontational and rough people because the sheep they are responsible for have no ability to fend for themselves. The Shepherd must fight for them. David as a youth used his experience as a shepherd to appeal to King Saul for an opportunity to fight Goliath the champion warrior of the opposing army.

33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” 1 Samuel 17:33-37 ESV

Jesus like David is a shepherd that will fight for His flock. He does not flee from danger or from the enemy.

 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, John 10:11-14 ESV

Jesus has a powerful love for His sheep because He is the owner not a temporary caregiver, and as owner of the sheep he knows them all. Jesus boldly went to the Cross the source of pain, death, and evil that impact our lives so that He Himself could restore His flock of sheep.

There is one other aspect of being Shepherd we must look at. That is to know that as sheep He is our master. Our role is to go where he leads, and follow His commands. The Shepherd knows where the green fields are at. He knows where the wolf treads. Why then do we obstinately try to forge our own way moving away from the green field and toward the wolf? Jesus demands that we give up our own ambitions. This is a shocking idea to western culture that views self as equal to God able to forge a path and do anything we put our minds to do.

24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24 ESV

The passions and desires of this life in many cases are selfishness and seeking pleasure at the expense of others. Jesus will confront this in His sheep just as surely as he has confronted the wolf.

20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Matthew 19:20-22 ESV

Jesus shot an arrow right in the heart of an upstanding moral young man who wanted validation that the life he lived was worthy of God. Jesus confronted the man right where this man kept his desires. Money in this case was the one place this man would not follow God and Jesus confronted the root issue.

 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. Luke 4:24-30 ESV

Here Jesus speaking to the self-righteous, religious pillars of the community he confronted them with a terrible truth about their history. God sent prophets to people who were not of Israel to heal and to be comforted because God saw how selfish and evil the people of Israel had become. This confrontation was such an insult that they intended to kill Jesus right then at that moment.

I read another story of Christ being confrontational this week with the release of movie Unbroken the story of Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was a POW in the hands of the Japanese and after he returned home he spent his time thinking of ways to return and kill his main captor. In the book that recounts his life Zamperni tells us that this anger and hate consumed him and it impacted his relationship with family. Years later Zamperini wrote a letter to his captor…

As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment, my post-war life became a nightmare. . . . But thanks to a confrontation with God through the evangelist Billy Graham, I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you. (396–397)

I am amazed to see his word “confrontation” right here. Christ confronted Zamperini and asked him to put away the passions of the flesh. This hate melted into forgiveness and Zamperini placed himself at the mercy and grace of the Good Shepherd. Christ confronts us all asking each of us to surrender to a life in service to Him. If you are His sheep then listen to his confrontational voice, repent of your rebellion, and submit to the mercy and grace of the one who is willing and able to give us life lived in love

Genesis 5:24 | Enoch Abducted by God

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Genesis the first book of the Bible has a long list of the patriarchs of the pre flood world. In this list it casually passes over the seventh from Adam, Enoch, with a unique statement.

Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Genesis 5:24 ESV

Enoch is unique here because Genesis lists the age when all the other patriarchs died, but Enoch was one day taken, gone, simply no longer around. This word here “took” is a common word that can mean to carry away or fetch and has a very personal meaning like we would say to be taken in marriage. It is interesting that such a simple statement about a profound event is found in God’s word?

Enoch “walked” with God. Now we do not know if this means he physically walked with God to travel or if he simply lived a life that traveled where God would have him go. What is interesting is that the Bible tells us that Noah also walked with God.

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. Genesis 6:9 ESV

God created us for relationship and He seeks out women and men who are willing to travel with him. God took note of Enoch in his generation and God saved humanity through Noah in Noah’s generation. In the Hall of Faith found in Hebrews 11 the Bible tells us more about Enoch.

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:5-6 ESV

Enoch walked with God trusting him and built a relationship that has no recorded deeds like Noah or worldly success like King Solomon. The Bible tells us that Enoch drew near to God and was rewarded with something only a few people in all of history have avoided, death. Enoch pleased God by walking with him. Paul tells the Ephesian Church that they walk in death following the “prince of the power of the air” namely Satan or they walk in the new life of the spirit provided by Jesus.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— Ephesians 2:1-5 ESV

Dear reader you too can walk with God, lover of your soul, provider of all your needs. He wants you to draw near to walk with him. Turn away from whatever direction you planned to go and travel with God. Put down the labor and toil of your ambitions to see what God’s ambition might be for you. Jesus has provided restoration making the relationship possible. Now is the time to take advantage of this gift.

Focus People… FOCUS!

This weekend is the Super Bowl between the Broncos and the Seahawks. When I see Payton Manning leading the Broncos I can’t help but think about Elway’s plan to bring Peyton to Denver and what it cost Tim Tebow. Tebow who was the starter for Denver and even won a playoff game for them had his future and career in the NFL effectively killed when he was traded. He has been uncompromising about his faith on and off the field even through the storms of the last few years. I have been curious to see if God would honor his faith and land him a starting quarterback role against all the odds. Tebow’s faith has made him a lightning rod and his uncompromising determination to be a quarterback and only a quarterback led to him eventually being cut by the Patriots this season. When that happened I wondered what went through Tebow’s mind. Did he get angry with God? Was it confusion as in “God why did you let this happen? I thought you wanted me to play football for you”? I do not know Tebow so I may be projecting my own views on him, but I see a young man who is willing to cast everything away to do what he believes God wants for him. A man like the author of Hebrews

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV

If Tebow is following God’s lead and he is now out of football I wonder if he is at peace with that result? In this interview with Skip Bayless Tebow articulates his worldview, approach to life, football and everything he does in a very simple idea. Life is about honoring God and that is the fuel for passion. At the end of the day if it is good or bad, win or lose Tebow claims that he will use whatever platform God has given to honor God who gave him that platform.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV

Many of us take what God has given and use it for our own selfish ends. We lose focus on what really matters. We lift up ourselves and say look what I have done. Tebow like the author of Hebrews claims that he is only looking to Jesus knowing that Jesus is the source of life itself. Tebow whom the world sees as grandstanding when he would kneel and pray claims to be honoring God who is the source of everything. Jesus set the perfect example of staying focused on God. Focused even though it brought Jesus suffering and pain. Jesus overcame death not just for himself, but for me also. What an exmaple of focusing on what matters.

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews 2:9-10 ESV

Jesus had his focus in the right place. He was focused on God and focusing on God leads him to do life in a way that honored the Father. Do I have the focus; do we have the focus, as Christians to keep our eyes on God wanting to honor him with whatever platform he has given us?

For Tim Tebow, I watch this new Super Bowl ad and I imagine a man who is focused. A man who if he had any doubts about God’s plans has regained his focus and is living in the freedom that comes only from serving Christ.